Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, August 16, 2019 and I’m resetting my counter to “1 day without screwing up the clips.” Today we celebrate National Bratwurst Day, National Men’s Grooming Day, National Rum Day and National Airborne Day.
Today/This Weekend in Legion History:
- Aug. 16, 2017: The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 – also known as the “Forever GI Bill” because it removes time limits for veterans who wish to use it for college – is signed into law by President Donald J. Trump. The legislation is named for The American Legion past national commander who in the winter of 1943-44 drafted the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act that changed the nation after World War II.
- Aug. 16, 2016: By a score of 8-6, Texarkana, Ark., Post 58 defeats Rowan County, N.C., Post 342 in 12 innings to win The American Legion Baseball World Series in Shelby, N.C. The eight-team tournament, aired live on television by ESPN, is attended by an all-time record crowd of 120,000.
- Aug. 17, 1969: Hurricane Camille devastates the Gulf Coast, killing 259, destroying communities and causing nearly $1.5 billion in damages. Many American Legion posts are obliterated and veterans are left homeless after a 24-foot storm surge and flooding that extends as far north as Virginia. Restoration is expected to take several months, if not years. The disaster leads The American Legion to establish a reserve fund for relief, offering up to $1,500 for displaced veterans and up to $5,000 for posts that are damaged or destroyed. The reserve account is the genesis of what will become the National Emergency Fund, which is formally established 20 years later. Camille’s destructive force is illustrated by the fact that the flagstaff from Joe Graham American Legion Post 119 in Gulfport, Ala., is later found about 80 miles away, buried in mud near Hammond, La. American Legion Posts 5 and 111 in Tampa, Fla., which narrowly missed the hurricane’s path, fly more than 4,000 pounds of emergency supplies to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., for the recovery effort. Legionnaires, gathered for the national convention in Atlanta, raise $61,000 on the spot for the relief fund.
- Aug. 18, 1921: A delegation of 200 American Legion members – who had traveled from the United States to France to dedicate a war memorial at Flirey, place a flag at the tomb of France’s unknown soldier and to meet with Marshal Ferdinand Foch – unveil a marble and bronze plaque in the town of St. Die-des-Vosges to commemorate the location where the name “America” was first published on a map, in 1507. The town, which called itself the godmother of America, took great pride in its place in history.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Military Times: Why women veterans are 250% more likely than civilian women to commit suicide
- Next Gov: New App from VA Streamlines Veterans’ Resources to Enhance Their Care
- Army Times: Soldier receives ARCOM for his actions during the El Paso shooting
- Stripes: DOD processed almost a billion dollars in improper travel payments in three years
- LA Times: WWII and Korean War vets help celebrate American Legion centennial at Newport post
- Military.com: Virginia: Company Falsely Claimed To Be Military Charity
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Military Times: Why women veterans are 250% more likely than civilian women to commit suicide
By: Kate Henricks Thomas and Kyleanne Hunter 1 day ago
After four years on active duty, Amy left the Army and moved back to her hometown.
However, she struggled to find her tribe. At work, she was told her handshake was a bit too firm and lectured about how her direct communication style made her coworkers uncomfortable. At her local VFW bar, the men stopped talking to stare at her, and her attempts to connect were met with awkward silences. A few other attempts to connect with the veteran communities she saw advertised at the VAand Facebook left her feeling similarly displaced.
“In both civilian settings and veteran settings, I was ‘weird,’” she recalls.
She explored some of the newer veteran service organizations (VSOs), but most failed to include child care or weren’t kid-friendly. Amy was a single parent, so she mentally crossed those options off her list too. She stayed lonely, and slowly sank into a deep depression.
The very word “veteran” calls to mind the image of a man — particularly a male combat veteran. However, there are more than 2 million women veterans in the United States today, and women veterans are the nation’s fastest-growing veteran population. Unfortunately, this unique population, many of whom have deployed during the past 18 years, rarely benefit from the traditional trappings of the hero returned home.
“Invisible Veterans,” an anthology released this summer by Praeger Publishing, outlines what happens — for better and worse — when women veterans like Amy return home and begin the long reintegration process. My co-editor and I assembled the latest research alongside powerful personal stories to paint a comprehensive picture of the return of these largely invisible veterans, and in doing so discovered that in many ways challenges and health risks for women veterans are significantly greater than those facing their male counterparts.
A lonely and dangerous civilian reality
Stories like Amy’s are common. Young veterans in general, and women specifically, often report they feel unwelcome in the very places created to support service members.
While on active duty, many women veterans work to hide their differences out of fear of visibility. They work to blend in with their male counterparts, and try to mask issues like traumatic stress, domestic violence and substance use. Many male veterans also experience these issues, but are more likely to seek help and to find resources on the other side.
As women move into the civilian world, existing challenges are compounded by the limited services and care systems, both non-profit and government, available to women. Women veterans also report that they leave the military with less of a very important factor: social support. Social support provides astonishing protective health benefits, to include lowered stress hormones, lowered risk of suicide and better overall physical health.
Social alienation, on the other hand, is even more dangerous to your health than smoking.
It leads to increased levels of stress hormones, and when they’re elevated too long, you may begin to have difficulty communicating, displaying empathy or engaging in high-level thinking.
All of these things make connecting with others even more challenging, and your isolation can easily become self-perpetuating.
Particularly for women veterans, that the combination of invisibility and isolation combine to create deadly consequences post-service.
For instance, women veterans are 250 percent more likely than civilian women to commit suicide. And women who do not use VA services have seen a 98 percent increase in suicide rates. To us, the numbers are more than just statistics. Behind them lie heart-wrenching story after heart-wrenching story. As editors of “Invisible Veterans,” and as Marines turned academic researchers, we know these stories well. In fact, both of us were almost part of these grim suicide statistics.
Once a Marine, always a Marine
My co-editor and I have a personal investment in the stories and health outcomes of women veterans, because these stories and data points are also our own. We are Marines.
Although no longer in uniform, we continue our service as academic researchers and accidental activists.
Kyleanne Hunter was a Cobra pilot and is a decorated combat veteran. I served as military police. We spent our 20s in the Corps, and it quickly became both our family and identity. We each deployed overseas and generally loved our time in service. However, transitioning to civilian life was another matter entirely. We were high performing, but — despite appearing “successful” and “normal” on the outside — we each felt a nagging sense of displacement and not belonging.
We missed the sense of unit cohesion and good-natured support we’d so often enjoyed on active duty, and struggled to find that same sense of community in our civilian lives. Further, we had a hard time carving out new identities. We were young, with intense personalities. We knew how to push the gas, but rarely the brake. We more masks of invulnerability and strength, but felt lonely and often isolated.
Even today, years after leaving the military, we find ourselves still searching for our place in a society that simultaneously praises veterans while unconsciously ignoring women.
What does it mean to go from being the most visible Marines to the most invisible veterans?
How does a woman make that transition successfully? These are the questions we sought to answer through “Invisible Veterans.”
Reaching women veterans
The research and stories we compiled illustrate the fact that women veterans share many of the exact same concerns of our male colleagues. However, transition is made more difficult by the lack of services and social support we find as we depart the service.
The good news is that resilience can be taught, and our work illuminated many success stories. We learned of women leveraging a unique formula of social support, spirituality and self-care to overcome their sense of isolation, and to form new identities post-service. These women often go on to become leaders in business, government and local communities, and to thrive through challenging times.
We also discovered that those hoping to reach women veterans must acknowledge that many women veterans do not feel like current efforts are effective. For example, unavailability of childcare is often an insurmountable barrier to participation in a program or service, particularly since women are more likely to be the primary caregivers to dependent children.
Women veterans who have experienced trauma may be less likely to participate in a mixed-sex setting. Instead, an offering that includes a single-sex environment is more likely to see participation.
Making services and programming as effective for female veterans as it is for male veterans is a leadership challenge. However, the effort can succeed if prioritized. Government agencies, non-profits, communities of faith, academic institutions and companies all have a role to play.
So, too, do male veterans. Whether part of a traditional or newer VSO, or simply a member of the broader veteran community, be on the lookout for female veterans. Make an effort to welcome them into your professional networks, clubs and communities. Help these invisible veterans feel seen once more.
Kate Hendricks Thomas and Kyleanne Hunter are the editors of a new volume on the experiences of service women titled “Invisible Veterans: What Happens When Military Women Become Civilians Again,” available wherever books are sold.
Next Gov: New App from VA Streamlines Veterans’ Resources to Enhance Their Care
By Brandi Vincent
| August 15, 2019 05:33 PM ET
The ultimate goal is to eliminate the barriers vets face in retrieving the information they need most.
The Veterans Affairs Department released a new mobile application this week—VA Launchpad—that is implicitly designed to help veterans spend less time navigating the web to access VA’s resources and ultimately aims to improve the incorporation of the agency’s services into their lives.
“Our vision is that access and the veteran experience will be enhanced through information and communication technologies that are effectively integrated into the daily lives of veterans and VA staff,” Veterans Health Administration Director of Web and Mobile Solutions Shawn Hardenbrook told Nextgov. “Veterans are seeking more ways to manage their care and we want them to have the right tools, specifically tailored to their unique needs.”
According to the user manual, the app is a one-stop-shop that houses ”more than 20” of VA’s apps in one streamlined place. Hardenbrook added that there are more than 40 apps available to veterans, each with different a function such as managing stress or accessing records.
“However, until VA Launchpad, the services haven’t all been available through one app,” he said. “Consider VA Launchpad as an ‘app bucket’ to access a variety of services using one simple login.”
Veterans and those who care for them can log in to the interactive app to identify and access other apps that help them manage their care, see and share VA electronic health records and other information with specific providers, book appointments, fill prescriptions and communicate directly with those that serve them, among other features.
VA Launchpad offers a search option for users who have trouble finding a specific app or service they need and it organizes the apps into five categories:
Manage My Health.
Communicating with My Care Team.
Share My Vital Health Information with My Care Team.
Improve My Mental Health.
Improve My Life.
The app also allows users to send information and feedback directly back to the agency, either by email or they can leave a note to be reached directly by phone.
And as new apps become available, they will automatically pop up into the Launchpad.
“There are many new apps being piloted across the country right now. Our goal is to continue to find and develop the best solutions for veterans,” Hardenbrook said.
In order to access the secure apps within VA Launchpad, users must be a VA patient and must have either a Premium My HealtheVet, DS Logon Level 2 (Premium), or ID.me account. The app is available for download in the Apple App Store and Google Play.
For those without mobile devices, there is a web-based app store with similar capability is available.
Hardenbrook also noted that customer experience was baked in throughout the development of the app. Early in the process, VA’s Office of Human Factors Engineering worked to produce an initial design that was based on industry best practices. Hardenbrook said, for that initial design, the team worked directly with a small group of veterans to gain their insights and feedback. Once an interactive prototype was developed, HFE tested it with a diverse set of veterans—“ranging from the Vietnam Era to the War on Terror”—to gain even more feedback.
Those recommendations were implemented in the final version of the app. And for those who developed it, VA Launchpad is meant to be a critical entry point for the resources they need most.
“This Launchpad app could overcome geographical challenges for a veteran that lives hours away from the closest VA medical center, or for a transitioning veteran that is experiencing PTSD and is unable to leave the house for mental health treatment,” Hardenbrook said. “We ultimately hope to eliminate as many barriers as possible for veterans, so it’s easier for them to receive the care they have earned.”
Army Times: Soldier receives ARCOM for his actions during the El Paso shooting
By: Kyle Rempfer 15 hours ago
A soldier with the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade was awarded the Army Commendation Medal during an award ceremony held at Fort Bliss on Wednesday for his act of heroism during the El Paso shooting.
Pfc. Glendon Oakley, an automated logistical supply specialist from Killeen, Texas, was at the Cielo Vista Mall, roughly 800 feet from the Walmart where the shooting took place on Aug. 3, according to a 1st Armored Division photo release.
The mall was separated from the Walmart by a parking lot, which prompted first responders to evacuate both buildings as the shooter attempted to flee.
At least 22 people died and 26 others were wounded by the shooter.
The shooting suspect, Patrick Crusius, 21, is in police custody. He is accused of targeting the border community because of its large Latino population.
In an interview with MSNBC, Oakley told the media that he was shopping at a Foot Locker when a child ran into the store and reported the mass shooting.
That was followed by sounds of gunfire. Oakley, who has a gun permit, drew his weapon and ran out of the store.
“I saw a whole bunch of kids running around without their parents … I tried to pick up as many as I could and bring them with me,” he told the news outlet.
Oakley took several panicked children at the mall and escorted them to police officers in the area.
“You could hear all of the chaos going around, and that’s when I did what I was trained to do,” Oakley said in an Army news story. “I quickly reacted and I thought to myself if my child were there how I would want someone else to react. I just took action and tried to get as many kids as possible.”
“I just thought about keeping them as close as I could, a couple of them were jumping out of my hands, but the ones I could keep with me, I made sure that they made it to where they needed to be,” Oakley added. “They were just scared, so I just did what I could do.”
Stripes: DOD processed almost a billion dollars in improper travel payments in three years
By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 15, 2019
WASHINGTON — The Defense Department’s travel system processed more than $965 million in improper payments in fiscal years 2016 through 2018, according to a government report released Thursday.
Improper payments, or payments that should not have been made or were made with an incorrect amount, has long been a significant problem in the federal government, according to the Government Accountability Office report.
Examples cited in the report of improper payments include a legitimate payment that lacks enough supporting documents, approvals and payments to an ineligible recipient, and duplicate payments.
“Since 2012, the DOD [Inspector General] has consistently found the DOD travel program to be non-compliant with statutory requirements to mitigate improper payments,” the report states.
The DOD’s Defense Travel Program’s total payments for fiscal years 2016 through 2018 was $18.3 billion, of which $965.5 million was paid out for improper travel, according to the report. During that time, the department was averaging $6.1 billion in travel payments and $322 million in improper payments each year.
It was not until fiscal year 2017 that the Defense Department began estimating the monetary loss attributed to improper travel payments, according to the report. For fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the department estimated a total monetary loss of $205 million out of $549 million in improper travel payments.
The report stated the Defense Department established a remediation plan in 2016 to reduce improper travel payments and chose 10 military and defense agencies within the DOD. However, the report called out the Defense Department for choosing those agencies because they made up the majority of travel payments in fiscal year 2016 and not necessarily because they had the higher rates of improper travel payments.
“Thus, DOD lacks assurance that the components it selected for greater scrutiny were the ones most at risk for improper travel payments,” the report states.
Also, only four of the nine military and defense agencies that responded to a GAO survey stated they had completed all of the remediation plan’s requirements. This was due to the lack of goals for completing the requirements and monitoring of required actions, according to the report. Those components who completed the requirements were the Army, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and the Missile Defense Agency.
The report also found while the Defense Department has ways to identify errors that lead to improper travel payments, they must do more to understand and address the root causes of errors.
The GAO report made five recommendations, including the comptroller revise how the Defense Department selects the military and defense agencies that implement the remediation plan and the comptroller pressure the remaining offices to complete their remediation plan requirements.
By Hillary Davis
Aug. 15, 2019
The population of living World War II veterans fades daily. Fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served remained in 2018, according to Department of Veterans Affairs statistics.
Cruz De Leon, 94, is the only one he knows of at the Buena Park Senior Center, where he goes daily for lunch and fellowship.
But at American Legion Post 291 in Newport Beach on Thursday, he was among peers from the Greatest Generation.
The American Legion hosts an annual luncheon and dance for the most senior veterans — those from World War II and the Korean War, all now at least in their mid-80s. Thursday’s party also celebrated the legion’s centennial.
About 40 veterans of both wars turned out, with dozens of their guests. An Army nurse danced to the live music in her uniform skirt suit. De Leon reminisced on the waterfront patio.
He told how he volunteered for the service as soon as he was 18. He’d been itching to for months. In 1938, at 13, he hitched a ride out of Texas on a freight train with friends and landed in Los Angeles, where his sister lived. He had a sovereign spirit and by 17 was living in a $3-a-week room at Temple Street and Grand Avenue at the edge of downtown. He split the rent with a buddy and worked in a restaurant.
“Everywhere I go, I see a guy pointing his finger at me, saying ‘I want you,’ ” he said. “That guy’s telling me something.”
He heeded the call of the Uncle Sam posters and did his Army basic training near Santa Barbara in 1943 and sailed to Liverpool, England, around Christmas to begin his time in World War II’s European theater.
For a few months after V-E Day, De Leon enforced curfew outside Frankfurt in Allied-occupied Germany. In November 1945, he returned to the United States and headed to California by train to be discharged at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro.
He married, raised five children and worked for 40 years painting and electroplating aircraft components before retiring in 1993. Now a widower, he lives independently and only recently gave up driving; a friend from the senior center offered to take him to Newport.
On Thursday, De Leon put on his Army dress uniform jacket, medals and ribbons affixed at the left breast. His European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal showed five service stars. One, he said, is for the invasion of Normandy.
World War II and Korean War veterans reminisce during a luncheon and dance at American Legion Post 291 in Newport Beach on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
Post Commander Jon Reynolds said the luncheon is so popular that the post has to open its lawn for parking.
Reynolds, 81, a 26-year Air Force veteran, knows aging vets like to meet up with people who share their culture.
“Just getting together with people while we’re still alive is a joy,” he said.
Military.com: Virginia: Company Falsely Claimed To Be Military Charity
16 Aug 2019
The Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. — A for-profit company operating in Virginia has been shut down after falsely claiming to be a charity that sent care packages to U.S. service members overseas.
In a statement Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Herring’s office identified the company as Hearts 2 Heroes of Bunker Hill, West Virginia. It did business as Active Duty Support Services and sold care packages door-to-door.
The state filed suit against the company alleging that staff skimmed donations for themselves. The AG’s office says the care packages went undelivered or to stateside military bases.
Herring’s office said the company closed as part of a legal settlement. The state hopes to recover $287,000 in restitution, mostly for Virginia residents who bought care packages. But some money would also go to residents in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.